Concern for the corner

Among the laws God gave His people who owned land and fields is the command for farmers not to harvest every last corner and scrap:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.

Photo of a grain field at harvest time near the Yarkon Springs in Israel by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

I always thought this command was only for the good of the poor. But the other day I stumbled across this Forward Day by Day meditation from 1971 that points out how it is also good for God’s creation – a timely reminder for Earth Day.

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The command against reaping the corners of the field goes back to the primitive belief in spirits who had authority over the land. A place to dwell and food to eat had to be left for them or they would leave the farmer. Now Israel has given the old law a new humanitarian bent: We are not to take everything for ourselves but to leave something for the one less fortunate that we.

To plow the field up to the last furrow, to attempt to scrape the last bit of profit from one’s labor, betokens a miserly spirit which in the end works to its own disadvantage. Agricultural science [knows] this ecological truth. To drain the potholes and the marshlands, to plow up the submarginal lands, is to create floods and dust bowls.

We need this “concern for the corner” operative in the city as well as the country, and not the contractor who uses the cheapest possible material, replacing one slum with another soon-to-be, or the housing developers who crowd in as many apartments as possible in their high-rises. Without concern for the corner, we poison our streams, kill the lakes, pollute the air, and destroy the quality of human living.

The healing power of being thankful

Autumn thank you graphic found via Google
“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back…
He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him.”
Luke 17:15-16

How many times were you prompted by your parents to say “thank you” when you were little? How many times have you helped your child – or someone else’s – to remember? We know how much a simple “thank you” is appreciated by the giver.

Recently our son’s pet hamster died. We knew it had to happen sometime, but there was no way to prepare our son. There never really is a way to prepare for how we will feel in the face of a loss. So we prayed that God would help us feel better, that we would be comforted. And then my son went one step further: He told me that he had said “thank you” to God for his pet.

That was when the real healing began. His gratitude for a gift – beyond his anger or sorrow at his loss – was beginning to make him whole.

Sometimes we have to give thanks before we are healed in order to become whole.

::  ::  ::

I did not write the meditation above. I read it several years ago in Forward Day by Day and recently came across it again. It profoundly speaks to me about the intricate connections between healing and thanksgiving: When I am ungrateful, do I deprive myself of the healing that Jesus desires for me? When I am ungrateful, am I less whole? I wonder how long it will take after my next sad loss for me to have the same grateful response as the author’s son. I can hear myself asking, “Why me? Why now?” But I wonder when I’ll also say, “Thank you, Lord, for the gift you gave me for a season to steward and enjoy.”

I will listen

“I will listen to what the Lord God is saying,
for He is speaking peace to His faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to Him.”
– Psalm 85:8 (BCP)

Though you probably don’t say these words at breakfast on Sunday mornings, you could – and their energy might take you right to church; open your ears to prayer, hymn, and sermon; sign you up to teach Sunday school; even get you back there for the Tuesday night Bible study.

God’s speaking will not be limited, though, to churches. Once we are ready to hear, God will use the most mundane moment at the office, a chance encounter with a stranger, even our own image in the bathroom mirror, to teach us, to “speak peace” to us.

The peace of which, and with which, God will speak may not comfort. It may distinctively dis-comfort, painfully prick our conscience, drive us to sacrifice confident prejudice for risky tolerance, even force us out into yet another battle with old familiar evils. God’s peace can move us into forgiving, even loving, a cherished enemy. God’s peace may empty our bank account, open our spare bedroom, fill our days off, amaze us, delight us.

God’s peace-speaking will open our ears and turn our hearts to hear more. May the energy of that peace recreate us in God’s image, ready to do God’s will.

Colossians 3:15 calligraphy by Tim Botts

I read this a while ago in Forward Day by Day
and discovered it afresh last week.
Calligraphy by Tim Botts found here.

Wondrous love

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

Jesus, tell me, show me, how the Father loved you when he let you die an agonizing, cruel, brutal death and didn’t do a thing to stop it. How does that express his love? And you love me with that kind of love?

::   ::   ::

John McCain tells the story of how one of his guards in the Vietnamese prison camp came to his cell every evening, risking his own life to loosen McCain’s bonds and make him a bit more comfortable for the night. Because of the language barrier, they couldn’t communicate. But one night the guard drew the sign of the cross on the dirt floor. How many other acts of selfless love have been evoked over the centuries by this sign of the cross?

::   ::   ::

I think the Father didn’t make you die on a cross, Jesus, or order you to die that way. I think he permitted you to show your love for us by your willingly enduring the worst we could do to you and then continuing to love us. Jesus, teach me to love that way. Transform me into what you would have me be. Grant me the courage, the power, and the fortitude to become worthy of being called a Christian.

Cross on a necklace

I read this several years ago
in Forward Day by Day. I think it connects
perfectly with the start of Lent.

Faith for a bargain

I dog-eared this page in my devotional booklet back in August and I reread it often.  Especially think about the prayer at the end.  The suggested reading is Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16.

“We found some people who were in deep financial trouble and had to get rid of their boat. We got it for practically nothing!”

It was a bargain. It was sharp dealing. But was it right? To look for and find someone on whose misfortune one could capitalize? Greed may be the most insidious of sins because it is so accepted. Hasn’t everyone done just exactly what this family did, for a house, a car, a bicycle? Much of our lives are spent pursuing bargains, something for nothing.

Many people have the same attitude about their spiritual lives: Get as much as possible for as little as possible. God, the church, and Christianity are supposed to meet all their spiritual needs at bargain prices. There are religion shoppers, too. And there are those who think God is so desperate for souls that he will surely lower the requirements at the last moment. But as far as we know, there are no bargain days in heaven and God is not desperate.

“Lord, I don’t want a bargain. I want you.”

Small gifts in the hands of a big God

I read this in my devotions the other day.  It was an effective reminder.

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people? (from John 6)

I spent a summer as a chaplain in a children’s hospital. On my first day there I went to visit a little boy who had just had open heart surgery. He was not expected to live and was lying in the bed with tubes and monitors everywhere. He looked exactly like my own son. I looked at the boy and then I looked up at the father. He was rubbing his son’s leg and a large tear was rolling down his face. I wanted to say something comforting or offer an eloquent prayer, but all I could do was cry. I just sobbed, and then the father began to sob, too. After a few minutes I managed a prayer and excused myself. I felt like a total failure. I was supposed to bring strength and all I had done was show my weakness.

It was a week before I had the nerve to inquire about the boy. To my delight I learned that he was recovering. I went to check on him and to apologize to the father.

He was there, smiling, and I said, “Hello.” At once he began to thank me. My crying, he said, had made it OK for him to cry—something he never felt he could do. He said it was the greatest gift he had ever been given.

I had thought my offering was small and insufficient — like the loaves and fishes — but God knew better.

I really liked
this one from a couple weeks ago, too.

Power to change

I found this meditation in Forward Day By Day most encouraging.  The part at the very end is especially profound in how it gives hope for times when it feels like my faith is lacking as well as in how it challenges me to not to place a sort of expectations on others that God doesn’t.

The LORD God says through the prophet Ezekiel: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

One of the false assumptions operating in the world today, leaving wasted lives in its wake, is that if you can find the key, you can apply it to yourself and change yourself. Many people, captured by this assumption, wander from new thing to new thing, each promising to be the key that will bring some real change in character and behaviour. One such person went through physical fitness, higher education, religion, sensitivity training, radical politics, and escapist novels. None of these effected any real change in his life. It is not true that a person can change himself.

Only God can change a person. Only God has the power to reach inside you and cleanse you of your guilt, heal you of the effects of others’ sins, empower you to desire and obtain a whole new set of priorities and considerations, and behave consistently in an increasingly Christ-like manner. God is not reluctant to exercise this power, but he must be asked and believed, though not as thoroughly as one might think. God only needs the slimmest faith to move in and effortlessly to achieve the changes we have so arduously tried to accomplish.